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Thursday, April 15, 2010
Jackson's return not tied to finish

ESPNLosAngeles.com

Regardless of how the Lakers finish the season, it will be Phil Jackson's decision whether he returns as coach, general manager Mitch Kupchak said.

In an interview with 710 ESPN Los Angeles on Thursday night, Kupchak said even if the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs, it would not affect Jackson's standing.

"I'm not sure that has anything to do with it," Kupchak said during the 15-minute interview. "A coach doesn't forget how to coach in one season. ... His body of work speaks for itself.

"If we don't perform well this year, my guess it's likely due to [having] a team that's been injured or [one that] maybe runs into a team that's really, really hot, so I'm not really concerned that will be an issue."

Jackson has said he would wait until after the season and take some time to mull his options before deciding whether to return. Kupchak said the approach is no different than the way the Lakers have dealt with Jackson the last several years.

"My understanding is that if Phil wanted to come back and coach next year ... then he would be embraced to come back and coach for another season ..." Kupchak said. "It's really a waste of time right now to talk about it because Phil's made it clear it's something that he'll talk about at the conclusion of the season."

Concerning the upcoming playoffs, Kupchak said he was not worried by the team's recent lackluster play or the lack of bench production but was concerned about the team's overall health.

Center Andrew Bynum has not played since March 19, Kobe Bryant sat out the last two games because of an injured finger and Sasha Vujacic (severe ankle sprain) and Jordan Farmar (hamstring) have been sidelined most recently.

"I think that would be the only thing that worries me," he said of the team's injuries. "We do know the team has the talent to contend for a championship, and I also know we have the best coach, perhaps that ever coached the game, coaching our team. So I'm not concerned about the bench and I'm not concerned about the players."